is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
It always seems like we could use another designer at Behavior and so we’re continually interviewing candidates, whether for immediate hire or down-the-road gigs. My partners do it more than I do, but it’s not unusual for me to sit in on a few from time to time. I’ve never been a big fan of interviews, though I admit the formal, almost adversarial constraints are a necessary evil of finding qualified designers to join our team.
Anyway, I’ve compiled a short, non-definitive list of things that have made interviews go well — for me. These are things that can improve the emotional temperature of an interview, i.e. they help a candidate ensure I’ll walk away with a positive impression of his or her wherwithal, presence of mind, and ability to interview, at least. These tips won’t necessarily improve someone’s chances for hire if the work is no good — and we’ve met candidates who have flouted one or more of these tips and still interviewed successfully — but every little bit helps.
- First, arrive with something in your hand. Whether it’s a traditional notebook or a laptop computer or an old-school portfolio in a black pleather case, the visual impression you give by carrying a physical object says, “I’m here to do business.”
- Read my company’s Web site. If you can drop even some hint that you did a little homework and you know something about the business, it goes a long, long way to proving you’re serious.
- Assume that you won’t have access to the Internet. If, like most designers in the 21st century, you have your portfolio online, bring a copy of it on a CD (make sure it’s Macintosh compatible, too) or on the hard drive of your laptop. The net connection in our meeting room is perfectly reliable, but you never know, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time if we can’t access your work.
- Bring multiple copies of a printed résumé that you can hand out, and with which you’re willing to part. Multiple copies. If your résumé is online, great. But it’s no substitute for a printed copy to which we can both refer, and on which I can make notes. As an adjunct, make your résumé available online in PDF format, too — don’t lock it up inside a Flash movie or even in a perfectly validating XHTML page.
- Leave something behind, especially something with your contact information on it. Make it easy for me to get in touch with you to sign you up for that six-figure salary. (Just kidding about that — or am I? Actually, yes, I am. Maybe.)
- Send a follow-up. This holds true not just given my notoriously short attention span, but probably for any job interview: the moment you walk out the door, there’s a good chance you’ve been completely forgotten. Send an email within two days, or, even better, a note in the mail within five. I can count on one hand the number of designers who have followed up via USPS, and I remember all of them to this day.
Simple steps, right? You would think that career counselors would have drilled these kinds of procedures into young candidates at an early age, but it amazes me how few designers know them. However, it’s worth repeating what I mentioned above: even if you hit every one of these marks on the head, you still need to have good work in your book, above all else. For tips on that, I can’t help you.+